Apology anniversary: reflecting on historical acceptance

A decade on, the National Apology to the Stolen Generations remains a momentous turning point that demonstrates the importance of historical acceptance in paving the road to reconciliation.

On February 13, it will be 10 years since then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally acknowledged the immense suffering experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to past government policies of forced child removal.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said the Apology was incredibly meaningful to First Nations people, demonstrating the importance of historical acceptance in building a respectful new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Historical acceptance is one of five interrelated dimensions that together represent a holistic and comprehensive picture of reconciliation, as outlined in Reconciliation Australia’s landmark State of Reconciliation in Australia report.

“One thing the Apology made abundantly clear is that understanding and acknowledging past wrongs and their continuing impact is crucial to building stronger relationships, which are at the heart of reconciliation,” Ms Mundine said.

“The Apology was a significant step towards healing the wounds of the past by acknowledging the suffering and loss experienced by the Stolen Generations and the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

“The simple act of the Apology showed us how we could face some of the ugly truths of our past to allow us to move forward together.”

Despite recognition of the suffering experienced by the Stolen Generations, Ms Mundine said the growing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care is evidence that Australia risks repeating past wrongs by removing another generation of children from their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home care at 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children, according to the Family Matters Report 2017.

“The intergenerational trauma caused by past child removal policies is acknowledged as a factor that continues to influence the growing overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care today,” Ms Mundine said.

To achieve historical acceptance, we need to accept and understand our shared history. But more than that, we need to make sure Australia does what is necessary to ensure we address the ongoing impact of past wrongs and safeguard against those past wrongs being repeated.

Ms Mundine said the 10th anniversary of the Apology was a time for Australians to take pride in the progress we’ve made toward reconciliation, while also reminding ourselves that more needs to be done.

“While the Apology was an historic occasion, it was only a starting point,” she said.

“The full extent of past wrongs has not been formally explored or officially recognised – which is why there is a need for a comprehensive formal process of truth-telling about our shared history, as the Referendum Council’s final report outlined.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

Skip to content
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap